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Review

Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality

By Drew Hayden Taylor

November 4, 2013

Review By Sean Carleton

Is Cree a sexy language? Do indigenous people have less pubic hair than settler people? How are love, sex, and decolonization intimately related? These questions, and many more, are examined by the wide selection of writers showcased in Drew Hayden Taylor’s edited collection, Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality. As the much anticipated follow-up to 

his work on indigenous humour, Me Funny, Taylor’s new collection of thirteen essays offers an equally hilarious but still scholarly probing of the subject of sex and its place in indigenous communities. Taylor proclaims that the book “will inform you. It will shock you. It will make you laugh. It may even make you blush. But above all else, it is a book about honesty, love, and survival” (3). Me Sexy is revealing and important as it documents the different ways in which indigenous peoples struggle to create spaces to live and love each other in Canada’s colonial society.

A central objective of Me Sexy is to explode the perception of indigenous sexuality as purely negative. For example, Taylor’s essay makes it clear that, for many Canadians, indigenous peoples “are rarely viewed as sexual beings. And if they are, their sexuality is not healthy” (23). Similarly, Marius P. Tunglik, a survivor of child sexual abuse and long-time activist with regard to exposing the dark history of residential schools, attests to the unhealthy views of sexuality that many indigenous people themselves hold. Tunglik argues that many indigenous people were abused “physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and culturally” and that the trauma of these experiences has had an intergenerational impact on indigenous communities (54). While Tunglik recounts horror stories, she also talks about hope and healing and the need to create environments where indigenous peoples can feel safe and loved. 

Me Sexy, then, is as much a discussion about sex and sexuality as it is a meditation on the tactics and strategies of decolonization. Just as Tunglik’s essay on abuse and residential schools encourages healing as a method of decolonization, the other essays in Me Sexy debate what is needed to decolonize indigenous minds, bodies, and ideas about sex. For example, Daniel Heath Justice claims: “To take joy in sex [is] about being beautiful to ourselves and others … To take joy in our bodies – and those bodies in relation to others – is to strike out against five-hundred plus years of disregard, disrespect, and dismissal” (10304). Not only does Justice believe that creating such an understanding is “fuel for the healing of our nations,” but he also makes it clear that, as such, “every orgasm can be an act of decolonization” (106). Similarly, in her essay on why she decided to establish indigenous erotica, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm explains: “I wanted to liberate myself. To decolonize myself” (112). For Akiwenzie-Damm, erotica – when about love and not about power – is essential, and embracing it will be crucial for indigenous peoples to “truly decolonize [their] hearts and minds” (113). It is important to recognize, however, that attempting to control indigenous sexuality, in various forms, was and continues to be a crucial element of colonizing projects. More could have been said overall about the necessity of linking the decolonization of indigenous sexuality with a broader decolonization movement that seeks to make important social, cultural, and economic changes in both indigenous and non-indigenous communities. 

Nevertheless, the essays in Me Sexy complement each other in working towards creating a more inclusive conversation about sex, sexuality, and love. As one essay proclaims, “we can all learn something from the willingness to engage some of these basic questions of life, love, and belonging” (105). From discussions of indigenous queer culture, to age discrimination, to art and erotica, the contributors of Me Sexy make it clear that everyone, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, has a place in this very important and intimate conversation.